Working with teens

Although the following was written for psychotherapists, these guidelines could be helpful for school counselors and teachers as well.

Helping troubled teens to get back into a normal developmental track is a formidable task, writes Clarice J. Kestenbaum, M.D., professor of psychiatry, Columbia University. She recommends the following guidelines:

1. Do not take sides between the teenager and his or her parents.

2. Do not act too parental. You should not be in competition with parents.

3. Do not be uninvolved or unconcerned. Information about self-destructive behavior must be shared with parents.

4. Be active and take stands.

5. Be available. Adolescents must be able to reach you between scheduled appointments.

6. Be honest. Adolescents detect false compliments and false values.

7. Do not overidentify with the teenager.

8. Do not be pejorative. The therapist is there to help the adolescent master skills, increase self-esteem and gain autonomy, not to be critical in the manner of parents.

9. Do not take symptoms lightly. Self-esteem and body-image problems are of primary concern to a teenager.

10. Do not work with an adolescent if you cannot find something to like about him or her.

“Ten Commandments for Work With Teens” The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter Volume 11, Number 10, October 1995 pp. 1-2.

Published in ERN January/February 1996 Volume 9 Number 1

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